The Church Needs Spirit, Word, and Sacrament: My Review of Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal

Over at CT is my review of Gordon Smith’s book Evangelical, Sacramental, & Pentecostal: Why the Church Should Be All Three.

It’s a good book, an exercise in global ecumenism, thick ecclesiology, and practical suggestions in a world where Pentecostalism is the fasting growing form of Christianity.

I conclude:

Anyone who has read Acts 2:42–47 can see that the church is meant to be a community of Spirit, Word, and sacrament. If we prioritize one of these and neglect the other two, we risk severing the main arteries that supply divine life to the church and the nourishment required for a healthy spirituality.

Taking my cue from the writings of N. T. Wright, I would describe a church that focuses exclusively on the Word as essentially a mosque. There is no room for the Spirit to move, and the sacraments are rejected as idolatrous snares. A church that seeks after the Spirit and yearns for its power, while reducing the Word to spiritual McNuggets and neglecting the sacraments as irrelevant to empowerment, is basically flirting with mysticism. All that matters is the buzz one gets from certain worship experiences. And a church fixated on the sacraments, while paying mere lip service to the Word and quarantining the Spirit, is little more than a magic show. God appears like a jack-in-the-box when bread and wine are placed on the table.

Without the Word, we will have an atrophied mind that is easily dragged away by the latest winds of false teaching and is vulnerable to forms of faith that are superficial and shallow. Without the sacraments, we will forget the joy of new birth that baptism declares, while remaining hungry for the fellowship and nourishment that only the Lord’s Table can provide. Without the Spirit, we will be left with the scraps of man-made religion and struggle to be faithful by our own meager strength.

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